Your Source of Joy, as a Creative
What is your source of joy, as a creative? I am not talking about your source of ideas. Ideas can be life-giving but they can also be lifeless. Joy is what you need to sustain you and your creative pursuits over the long term in this cynical, heart-breaking world. And yet, we cannot go around seeking joy. Like happiness, joy is not found by pursuing it directly. Joy comes as a byproduct of something else. This is where we must focus.
The Thief of Joy
The most obvious thief of joy maybe when we lose our home or property to a tornado, an earthquake, or a hurricane. In the Bible we don’t see these terms because those things don’t occur in Israel, but we do find the idea of homes being destroyed and lives reduced to “ashes”. The prophet Isaiah described a whole cascade effect of what happens to us that may rob us of our joy, starting with this picture of ashes. Isaiah then moves on to describe the mourning people go through when they experience great loss, and eventually a faint spirit, heavy heart, and depression people can experience during tremendous loss:
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
– Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)
Life as an artist can be uniquely challenging. It is not predictable like the life of a lawyer or a teacher. We may not lose our home, but we may see our dreams and hopes die. We face the rejection of critics and fans who can be fickle. Like others, we may also lose a loved one, or face our own personal tragedies and pain. In these seasons, it can be hard to hold onto joy. If it was easy to hold onto joy, there wouldn’t be so many therapists, psychologists, and self-help books on the bestseller lists. It is a serious challenge. There is always something threatening to steal your joy.
The Gift of Joy
Sustaining joy is not something you earn. It is a gift. God promises to give us joy and to restore our souls, but is rarely instantaneous. This is because God is doing so much more than simply restoring our joy. He is molding and shaping us, as well as preparing us for the joy of being in heaven with him. In truth, joy is like flowers bursting forth in the springtime. They are a wonderful gift to observe, but they are result of unseen efforts. It took time to plant, water, to give sunlight, and to wait.
In a similar manner, our joy is a gift that is the result of the work of God. It takes time and patience. We often forget that God is working mysteriously in our hearts as we long for joy to return. And yet, this gift of joy is a promise. One of the great promises of God is He will replace those ashes that represent loss, with beauty. But God does not stop with restoring the physical or the surface issues.
Garment of Praise
He also promises to replace our mourning and grief with the refreshment of oil. He also promises a ‘garment of praise.’ This may sound funny to our ears at first, but garments in this context represent who we are and how we handle daily life.
The garments of a king or of a priest symbolized their unique role and honor. So in this passage, the garment of praise symbolizes a transformation within our hearts that takes us from grief and sadness to joy and praise.
Why praise? It is the most natural response we can have to receive a gift or being blessed. We praise the one who came to our rescue, who gave us something precious or granted us favor. This garment of praise is like the flowers, it is a joy that reflects all that God has done in the soil of our hearts. It is a gift.
The Reality of Joy Accomplished
Jesus’ ministry doesn’t start the way we would expect. Well, getting baptized by John the Baptist might have been what we expected, but what happened right after that? Jesus went into the wilderness to fast for 40 days where he is tempted by Satan to give up on joy doing all that it would take to give us joy. As soon as he emerges from this 40 day fast, he started preaching and teaching. And the first thing he says in public is a quote from this chapter in Isaiah. In Luke 4:18-19 we read how Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth, and read the first 2 verses of Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
This is the promise of hope and joy that Jesus proclaims. Luke finishes this story by telling us the key revelation made that day:
“20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
We do not wait for Heaven to experience this joy. Jesus declared it himself, “this scripture has been fulfilled.” The transformation of our hearts has already begun if we have understood and embraced the gospel. He has promised to transform our hearts and our minds, giving us a joy that is everlasting.
The art world, the video game industry, the movie and television industry are filled with enough cynics and depressed creatives. The world does not need more of this. What the world is craving, whether it would say it out loud or not, is to find people who bring joy and hope into the workplace, the studio, and the executive offices. This is part of your gift as a believer in those communities.
We must not forget what God has done in our hearts. We must not forget that we are loved and cherished by God. It is only a deep relationship with God that can bring us joy while working in these arenas. Though we experience the same tragedies and financial hardships as our non-Christian friends, we still have hope. Though we still face challenges, we are not crushed by those challenges. Though we may even encounter shame and dishonor, God promises to restore that which we have lost -and even to give us a double portion. Examine verse seven of that same chapter in Isaiah 61:
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
It may take a lot of time and serious preaching to your own heart to hold onto these truths, but nonetheless, they are absolutely true! Your inheritance is greater than you have dared to imagine, regardless of how much you do or do not accomplish in this life. And what is the result of embracing these promises and these truths? Examine verse 10 of Isaiah 61:
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
This is where we find the joy of our salvation. This is where we begin to embody what it means to walk with a ‘garment of praise’. And we begin to see how God has placed a robe of righteousness over us even though we don’t deserve it. Despite our sins, doubts and cynicism, Jesus died to completely replace all of it, to cleanse us completely and to place upon us a pristine, beautiful, white robe of righteousness. The more we dwell upon these truths, and the more we give up trusting in our own ability to be ‘good enough’, the more we can begin to receive the gift of righteousness, peace, and joy that He promised us. In this transformation, we not only find joy, but we “greatly rejoice” because we start to see just exactly how good God is.
When Joy Transforms Your Art
When the joy of your salvation becomes palpable in your life, it will emanate throughout your life and your work. The apostle Paul describes it as an ‘aroma of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 2:15-17) that reflects the work of the Holy Spirit within your heart. We cannot help it. We do not have to ‘fake it’, or ‘manufacture it’. It becomes as natural as breathing.
As long as we stay anchored in Christ, embracing the reality that He loves us even though He knows how sinful our hearts are, and acknowledging that this life is not all there is, then this everlasting joy begins to grow. This is the promise of hope we can hold onto because Jesus has secured this joy for us. Pursuing this source of joy brings life to our art and healing to our lives. This is essential for all creatives who call Jesus their Lord and Savior.
The Joy Question for You
How has the joy of the Lord influenced your creative work, and your community? How has God’s gift of joy been a blessing to you and those around you? If you are in a season of loss and facing the ‘ashes’ of lost dreams, how do these verses in Isaiah 61 offer you encouragement and hope? I would love to see your comments down below!
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Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.